May 29, 2007

Gore "envisions a sort of Vulcan Utopia, in which dispassionate individuals exchange facts and arrive at logical conclusions."

What's with Al Gore and his book called "Assault on Reason"? David Brooks thinks he has "a bizarre view of human nature." (TimesSelect link.)
Gore seems to have come up with a theory that the upper, logical mind sits on top of, and should master, the primitive and more emotional mind below. He thinks this can be done through a technical process that minimizes information flow to the lower brain and maximizes information flow to the higher brain.

The reality, of course, is that there is no neat distinction between the “higher” and “lower” parts of the brain. There are no neat distinctions between the “rational” mind and the “visceral” body. The mind is a much more complex network of feedback loops than accounted for in Gore’s simplistic pseudoscience.

Without emotions like fear, the “logical” mind can’t reach conclusions. On the other hand, many of the most vicious, genocidal acts are committed by people who are emotionally numb, not passionately out of control.
So, ironically, it is Gore himself who is being irrational -- according to Brooks.

But wait. Does Gore actually believe in this unscientific view of the human mind? Is the point of this book to wake us up and make us see that we've been manipulated by the media?

The other way of looking at the problem Brooks points out is that Gore is being quite rational, he understands very well that emotion and reason are intertwined, and he is using talk about rationality to manipulate our emotions. I think the use of that scary word "assault" in the title gives it away.

Be very afraid. Evil people want to control you -- assault you! --with invisible forces that play upon parts of your body that are beyond your conscious thought. I will protect you with this magical substance I have called Reason. Come to me. I will save you.

ADDED: There's some talk in the comments about how annoyingly condescending Gore sounded in his recent NPR interview. You can listen to it here.

81 comments:

Matt Brown said...

Come on, Professor. Algore just wants us all to live long and prosper. ALL of us, not just the rich and the global warming deniers.

P. Rich said...

'Without emotions like fear, the “logical” mind can’t reach conclusions.' -Brooks

What an astounding statement, like much of his commentary. Would this be David Brooks the journalist? If so, we then have a lawyer blogger commenting on a journalist commenting on a politician regarding brain function. I certainly feel enlightened, an emotional condition which is apparently connected via intricate loops to my non-existent reason.

As for Gore's view on anything, "Who knows what evil lurks..."

The Emperor said...

It's hard to take this sort of argument seriously: "The other side is not being reasonable, but we are." Doesn't everybody say that? It just means that the two sides disagree, which is, of course, the reason there are two sides.

Paul Zrimsek said...

"Screw the Force, Luke. Trust your computer." --Senator Amygdala

The Emperor said...

From the NY Times:

"Mr. Gore’s central argument is that “reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions” and that the country’s public discourse has become “less focused and clear, less reasoned.” This “assault on reason,” he suggests, is personified by the way the Bush White House operates. Echoing many reporters and former administration insiders, Mr. Gore says that the administration tends to ignore expert advice (be it on troop levels, global warming or the deficit), to circumvent the usual policy-making machinery of analysis and debate, and frequently to suppress or disdain the best evidence available on a given subject so it can promote predetermined, ideologically driven policies."

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/22/books/22kaku.html?_r=1&em&ex=1180324800&en=29e4be8e136a12d4&ei=5070&oref=slogin

Seriously, how is this any different from what Republicans would say about Democrats? All Gore is doing is trying to reframe his political disagreement with Republicans into a statement that he is a superior thinker.

Bruce Hayden said...

Let's see if I have this right. In one book, Mr. Gore admits to grossly exaggerating some of his facts in order to make a point by scaring people, and then in his next book he bemoans that Americans supposedly increasingly make decisions through emotions.

My personal suspicion is that he doesn't have the brainpower nor the training to adequately understand the science in either case. After all, he is a journalist by training, and supposedly had lower SAT scores than President GWB.

BlogDog said...

Is it time to get Weird Al to do a remake of "Amish Paradise" as "Vulcan Paradise?" I'd watch that on YooToob.

EnigmatiCore said...

Hey, is this another Cheap Trick?

Mommy's alright, Daddy's alright, they just seem a little weird.
Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away, ay, ay, ay.

Jerub-Baal said...

Hmmmm..."...Gore’s simplistic pseudoscience..." and ..."the use of that scary word(s)..." to "manipulate our emotions."

Gee, it's not like the guy has a track record of this kind of stuff.

Bruce Hayden said...

Some quotes often (possibly erroneously) attributed to Winston Churchill are possibly relevant here:

"Show me a young Conservative and I'll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I'll show you someone with no brains."

"A liberal is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air."

Finally, looking at this from a more libertarian / conservative point of view, Ilya Somin has a couple threads going today at volokh.com titled: Political Ignorance and Libertarian Paternalism and Power to the Experts! - A Solution to the Problem of Political Ignorance?.

I would suggest that Mr. Gore's basic problem here is the usual one made by socialists, that of assuming that man is rational and perfectable. In a perfect world, with perfect people, socialism would work. But of course, we don't live in a perfect world, and people are stubornly not perfect, and thus, capitalism is far more effective than utopian philosophies like socialism.

motlo66 said...

I was just wondering, how many of the people commenting have actually read the book?

Bryan said...

I guess no-one reads philosophy any more. Or it would have been noticed that this is a philosophical rather than a scientific problem. The question is about the nature of reason and the relationship with emotion. This problem was taken up by Plato and Aristotle in great detail (and resolved by putting reason in control) and later on by David Hume, who decided that it was emotion that ruled reason. I haven't read Gore's book, but based on his past record, I don't hold out high expectations. But the statement from Brooks, "without emotions like fear, the 'logical' mind can't reach conclusions," I find to be mystifying and incoherent. What could he possibly mean? Aristotle in his Organon outlined the form of logical deduction: "All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore, Socrates is mortal." Um, so where did I need fear to reach a logical conclusion? And when did the intellectual life of the U.S. descend to the point where this sort of nonsense can be printed in the New York Times?

mandrewa said...

The logical response would be take Mr. Gore at his word and
see how he responds.

He may indeed be a celebral guy. Or he may like so many be
mostly limbic.

As for David Brooks, well he's really quite good. He does get
it. Emotions do drive reason. People with intact cerebrums
and a damaged limbic system are not better at reasoning; they're
much worse.

Tim said...

I wonder if Gore tried to apply Fractal Theory to his profound understanding of current politics? He's the man for that - it's right up the ally of any self-respecting C student with aspirations.

Regardless, Gore making judgements on reason in politics is like a street hooker making judgements on chastity in prostitution.

Although the street hooker more likely has the benefit of being honest with herself.

TMink said...

I am always amused by the "feelings bad, thoughts good" crowd. They seperate our experience in an arbitrary and frankly silly fashion.

We are creatures of affect and cognition, both from the same general source, and both necessary to be fully human. Rationality and emotion REQUIRE each other in order for us to function well. Folks who seek to marginalize affect use examples of disordered emotions and look to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Trey

Sloanasaurus said...

Gore is just rehashing the scientific planning philosophy of people like C.H. Waddington from the early 20th century. These beliefs were the foundation for German society pre World War I, and the totalitarian societies that came after. It's abhorrent that Gore is getting an audience for this stuff.

It's also totally anti-American. America is about individual rights and freedom, not about "smart" people making decisions for the rest of us.

dbp said...

Bryan,

You may be missing the point about emotions: If you are not afraid to die then reason will not tell you if you should avoid lions or not.

Reason cannot tell us what to want: It is just a tool we use for getting what we want.

dbp

Richard Fagin said...

Mr. Gore's attitude reflects a deep character flaw that is shared by a lot of intelligent, well educated people. The flaw is the attitude that "I'm smarter than you, and you don't even recognize it because you're stupid." Mr. Gore and others sharing that character flaw in fact probably are smater than most people. The problem is that these same people confuse "smarter than" with omniscience.

It takes a lot of maturity and wisdom to recognize that one doesn't have all the answers, and that the crowd's failure to agree isn't because the crowd is stupid (even allowing for the fact that occasionally it is).

Mr. Gore et al. are sorely lacking in both maturity and wisdom.

pst314 said...

Al Gore has a long history of inciting fear and hatred, so I take his "appeal to reason" as just more wind.

Ann Althouse said...

Bryan: "But the statement from Brooks, "without emotions like fear, the 'logical' mind can't reach conclusions," I find to be mystifying and incoherent. What could he possibly mean?"

I assume he's referring to modern research into the brain. See for example, "Descartes' Error," one of my favorite books, which explains exactly the thing you find "mystifying and incoherent." People with brain damage that interferes with emotion can lose the ability to make choices among what appear to them to be endless options requiring logical analysis. There's an unforgettable example in that book of a poor man who was incapable of setting his next appointment. So, although this is indeed a longstanding philosophical inquiry, modern brain science has contributed importantly to it. Indeed, Gore seems to be making "Descartes' error."

And, no, I haven't read the book. I'm sure Gore and all the other folks who write bloated tomes to serve their political goals would like to nail me down for hours on end passively consuming their message. I read all day, but I don't have time for that. If I want to understand something about how the mind works or how media manipulates people, I'm not going to go to Al Gore. I mean, come on! How on earth (in the balance) does that make sense? He's a politician, not a scholar. He deals in emotion, trying to stir people up to take political action. Why would I look to him for an explanation of reason and emotion and what I ought to do about the combination of the two?

Doyle said...

Why would I look to him for an explanation of reason and emotion and what I ought to do about the combination of the two?

I can't imagine, given your firm grasp of both.

Dave said...

"Why would I look to him for an explanation of reason and emotion and what I ought to do about the combination of the two?"

Because, damnit, you're supposed to give way to your moral and intellectual superiors, and Algore has decided, logically using only reason, that he's everybody's superior morally and intellectually!

Bissage said...

What's so bad about living in a sort of Vulcan Utopia, anyway?

Remember Mr. Spock?

He was a lovable scamp, what with his cheerful “Na-nu, na-nu” and his buoyant cries of “Shazbot!”

Oh, how I adored the way he’d drink through his finger and sit on a chair upside down!

We should all be a little more like Mr. Spock.

The world would be a better place.

Besides, check this out!!!

(Cracks me up every time.)

Pogo said...

How to explain why people don't agree with my conclusions?

Certainly, they could simply be stupid. More likely, they are controlled by primitive emotions, and unaware of it. If not these explanations, then surely they are evil.

That the unwashed masses cannot recognize the wonderfulness that is me and my theory which is mine is lamentable. And democracy really really sucks big time.

Mark said...

This whole discussion reminds me of how in the Soviet Union apparatchiks and Communists condemnded Solzhenitsyn's books without actually reading the books. There is even an expression in Russian that makes fun of this; loosely translated it's like: " I haven't read it but I wholeheartedly condemn."

How can one criticize a book without actually reading it is beyond me. Especially when the basis for the criticism is a column by a political opponent of Gore, the opponent who's much more often wrong than right.

If you are too bored or not interested to read the book, then don't criticize it. It's just laughable.

Bryan said...

Thanks Ann, I will have a look. I have read Gilbert Ryle who also dismantles Descartes, but from a philosophical angle. I have been looking for a good recent work on brain research, thanks again.

Balfegor said...

I think the use of that scary word "assault" in the title gives it away.

This is the man whose presidential campaign was all about the "forces standing in your way." It was all class resentment and fearmongering.

The flaw is the attitude that "I'm smarter than you, and you don't even recognize it because you're stupid." Mr. Gore and others sharing that character flaw in fact probably are smarter than most people.

The problem, in Gore's case, is that this probably isn't actually true. The man flunked out of law school, and then flunked out of divinity school, didn't he? After a Bush-level performance in college. And this, even though he genuinely seems to have been trying (as opposed to, say, spending his college years dead drunk, a la Bush II).

I mean, Clinton -- yes, you can make the argument that he's smarter than the rest of us. The man was a Rhodes Scholar, after all, so he probably is. Carter, sure, the man was a nuclear engineer, and that's not peanuts. Herbert Hoover? The man was practically a polymath. Al Gore? Eh, bit of a tough sell there.

spacemonkey said...

Mark,
HAH! You condemn the 'Whole discussion' regarding people people who criticizing the book yet have not read the book. Yet YOU criticize the WHOLE DISCUSSION but you have not read the whole discussion. For example my contribution.

I will not attempt to criticize Gore's new book for I have not read it. Mr Gore however, author of said book, is a total, utter poopyhead. Any book written by a poopyhead is likely to have certain a distinct poopyheadedness to it. But since I have not read the book I cannot make the claim about the book. Only its author.

Anthony said...

It's just the oldest trick in the book: Accuse your opponent of behaving exactly the way you do.

Fen said...

Oh I hope Gore runs. We haven't forgotten how he tossed out overseas military votes on hyper-technicalities. Back off Hillary, his head belongs to us.

Blue Texan said...

"Oh, look! Another interesting article, written by a reliable right wing partisan, attacking a Democrat. How pretty!"

Doyle said...

BlueTexan -

How dare you impute partisan motives to Prof. Althouse! She isn't interested in you nasty partisan partisanship. She is interested only in the truth of Al Gore's loathesomeness, which David Brooks can corroborate.

Fen said...

Blue Texan: Oh, look! Another interesting article, written by a reliable right wing partisan, attacking a Democrat. How pretty!

Yes, Ann is a heretic. She dares to question your religion. Burn her!

Fen said...

[but check your carbon offsets first...]

Doyle said...

Yes Gore-bashing is a totally new phenomenon that Ann invented, or at least she invented the move where you quote other people doing the Gore-bashing and take a certain distance from it.

She's a truly unique thinker and you guys should be really proud to have won her over.

Thorley Winston said...

What's so bad about living in a sort of Vulcan Utopia, anyway?

"Inspired by the most logical race in the galaxy, the Vulcans, breeding will be permitted once every seven years. For many of you this will mean much less breeding, for me, much much more." -- Comic Book Guy

Fen said...

Dolye: or at least she invented the move where you quote other people doing the Gore-bashing and take a certain distance from it.

So Dolye, does that mean you have no criticism re Gore?

newmann said...

What? Actually read what we criticize? That's not how we do things in Madison!

Vive Le Strawmen!!

Doyle said...

Still up to your old misspelling tricks, eh Fen? You rascal!

John Stodder said...

"The other side is not being reasonable, but we are." Doesn't everybody say that? It just means that the two sides disagree, which is, of course, the reason there are two sides.

I have a soft spot for ol' Al Gore and, looking at the Democratic field of candidates, believe he ought to run.

But his inability to recognize that people of good faith can have a sound, logical basis to disagree with his conclusions is a serious blind spot. From the many reviews I've read, it seems like he has now filled a entire book with that tendency.

To take two issues of importance to Gore, global warming and the war: Does he really believe that the scientists and climatologists who disagree with him on global warming are acting on irrational beliefs or emotions? Perhaps they're in the minority, but that doesn't make them irrational. And it's a pretty convenient way to dismiss their arguments without having to answer them.

Ditto the war. There were thousands of enlightened, well-informed people with influence over the government, the military and the media who came to the conclusion that the invasion was necessary. Their opinions were grounded in the same rational process that informed war opponents' opinions. Rational processes don't lead in only one direction, especially when their are so many variables to weigh.

Now, it's true that some war supporters used calls to emotion to inflame parts of the public to support their view -- but that's politics as it's been practiced for 3,000 years. And it's no different from the calls to emotion that opponents of the war used. At the political level, it was "mushroom clouds" vs. "body bags," "9/11" vs. "no blood for oil." I don't think either side was more or less guilty of an "assault on reason," or that it's necessarily illegitimate to use emotion in a political context.

Finally: If I recall correctly, isn't Al Gore a practicing Christian? Where does religious faith fit into his argument? Aren't churches just another, more ancient, form of communications media? Are they exempt from his demand for "reason?" Perhaps he address that in the book.

Jami Hussein said...

So if we get Al Gore's Vulcan Utopia, with universal health care for free and flying cars that run on vegetable oil, then Captain Kirk will fight Al Gore to the death for the hand of Tipper ?

Oligonicella said...

Bryan:

But the statement from Brooks, "without emotions like fear, the 'logical' mind can't reach conclusions," I find to be mystifying and incoherent. What could he possibly mean?

Others have address brain research, I'll use an example. In the movie Faces of Death, there is one Harry. He exits a Volkswagen and starts filming a grizzly. Despite his wife's screaming for him to get in, he continues. The last shot on his camera is a close-up of a grizzly's open mouth.

Now, he probably (obviously don't know) reasoned that, since he was being nonaggressive, the bear wouldn't harm him.

His amydala was apparently turned off. Had it been working and fear flooding his system, he would probably have reasoned (again, don't know), "Holy crap! It's jaws are open and it just might kill me and rip an arm off!"

His amydala would have been correct.

Fear guiding reason.

Oligonicella said...

Yeah, yeah. Amygdala.

Kirk said...

Mark,

This is yet another case of Rational Ignorance in action:

1. There isn't possibly enough time for an individual to read every book that's published; so

2. We all look for clues as to what's worth reading, and what's not; and

3. Al Gore has a well-known track record as a gasbag; therefore

4. The chances that his new work has anything of actual value is quite small.

QED.

And it's not like we're all completely ignorant of the book's contents: the publisher has provided blurbs and other material hinting at the gist of it. If these are completely misleading as to the nature of the full contents, I'd say Mr. Gore has an issue with the publisher rather than with the potential audience.

-------------------------------

P.S. It doesn't hurt that the book sports, as a warning sign, a title as tendentious as that on any volume Ann Coulter ever wrote.

blake said...

Bissage,

Reminds me of "Futurama", when Leonard Nimoy (previously just a head in a jar) has his body restored by mysterious gas-cloud entity/Star Trek nerd, Melllvar:

Nimoy: Hey, a body! Buff, tan. Yeah, this is mine, alright!

--Bringing home the tangent: Al's daughter Kristin wrote for "Futurama", and Gore himself starred in 1 1/3 episodes, the one about global warming, and a third of the (much funnier) "Anthology of Interest", which ends with him playing D&D with Gary Gygax, Nichelle Nichols, Steven Hawkings and Deep Blue.

"I'm a 10th level Vice-President!"

blake said...

By the way, my, uh, "upper brain" humbly submits that if a decision to take action A results in one's death, it's not a rational decision, unless action A has value beyond the value of one's life. Fear doesn't need to enter into it at all, or must be overridden in some cases.

Without some crying need for film footage of a grizzly eating a human, sacrificing your life to obtain said footage is not rational.

Throwing yourself on a grenade to protect the lives of others (or like that Iraqi who threw himself into a suicide bomber to keep the bomber from entering a crowded mosque) is rational. Unless they're all a bunch of jerks, and you're really, really great.

XWL said...

I just hope Tipper is close by next time he goes through pon farr.

Also, is he trying to become more and more like the Parker and Stone parody version of himself?

Excelsior!

Luckyoldson said...

First of all, why would anybody give a flying fuck what David Brooks has to say about Al Gore or his book? (Especially considering Gore has been right about the Iraqi fiasco and global warming.)

Second...be careful...Mr. Gore could very well be our next President.

Jeremy said...

Actually, it sounds like Gore is talking about Nietzsche's two sides of the human mind, the Apollonian side (reason/logic) and the Dionysian side (emotional). Except Nietzsche believed that both sides should be equally important

Joe said...

I have not read Gore's book, but I did hear his interview on NPR last week. He was extremely condescending, even relative to himself, and it became quite obvious that his measurement of rationality was whether one agreed with him.

(The notion that pure rationality leads to a single conclusion is mind bogglingly stupid.)

Bissage said...

[B]lake, funny stuff!

XWL, the last incident of "pon farr" was truly a sight to behold.

Luckyoldson said...

joe says:
"He was extremely condescending, even relative to himself..."

when you people don't agree with, or dislike someone...you really go beyond the pale.

"condescending even relative to himself???"

what a hoot.

Joe said...

Lucky,

Al Gore is one of the most condescending people I've ever listened to. In his interview on NPR last week he even outdid himself.

(This has little to do with whether I agree with him or not. I can think of several public figures who I agree with, but can't bear listening to for the same reason.)

John Stodder said...

be careful...Mr. Gore could very well be our next President.

Odd how you phrased that, LOS, given the rap on Gore is his intolerance of disagreement.

Are you suggesting a Gore Administration would make "assault on reason" a crime?

Thorley Winston said...

First of all, why would anybody give a flying fuck what Al Gore has to say in his book? (Especially considering Gore has been wrong about the war and global warming.)

Fixed it for you.

Luckyoldson said...

sorley & john,
whining about gore is rather silly, considering he was one of the few who made it clear that invading iraq would be a huge mistake, and also spends much of his time trying to get people to respect and conserve our planet. (can i assume you're pretty much against any of that?)

and i suppose you're both worried about mr. gore disrupting the wonderful job YOUR boy has done over the past 6 plus years.

it must be terribly difficult keeping a straight face while continuing to support little georgie.

oh, well...he'll be gone soon (hopefully before he starts another war)...and then we can get back to the job of restoring america's reputation.

Luckyoldson said...

sorely,
you do understand that jack bauer is a "fictional" character...right?

*oh, and he was created in that horrible lefty hollywood you all whine about.

Doyle said...

What's most painful to me, reading the usual anti-Gore tripe, is that he is "condescending" and "intolerant of disagreement"

Look, either the Earth is warming due to carbon emissions or it isn't. Why should he have to take the API-funded scientists or the idiot wingnuts who listen to them out for ice cream? So they'll like him more? That ship has obviously sailed.

He is condescending because so much of this country has been so badly bamboozled that the pain of getting their heads out of their asses is, at this late date, too much to bear.

XWL said...

XWL, the last incident of "pon farr" was truly a sight to behold.

Oh no, Bissage!

That was a few months shy of seven years ago.

He's due!!!

Luckyoldson said...

doyle,
and keep in mind that gore is even:

"condescending even relative to himself"

and that ain't easy.

Luckyoldson said...

joe,
gore may very well be condescending...but at least you can unserstand what the man is saying.

compare that to a few of bush's speeches or press conferences.

Wurly said...

what are you
saying
i can't
unserstand


-ee cummings

Joe said...

also spends much of his time trying to get people to respect and conserve our planet.

Yes, he believes it so much he has made his house extremely energy efficient.

blake said...

Whatever happened to the aversion to politics part of this blog?

Have the commenters here forgotten that? Not everything has to be viewed through partisan lenses.

Thorley Winston said...

Yes, he believes it so much he has made his house extremely energy efficient.

Pretty soon Al Gore’s “carbon footprint” will need its own zip code.

John Stodder said...

whining about gore...

What's most painful to me, reading the usual anti-Gore tripe, is that he is "condescending" and "intolerant of disagreement"

Look, either the Earth is warming due to carbon emissions or it isn't. Why should he have to take the API-funded scientists or the idiot wingnuts who listen to them out for ice cream?


I don't think I was whining about Gore, but you guys are the experts.

Among the many advocates for action on global warming, Gore is the only one I've heard make a demand that the news media stop running stories that might cause doubts about what he's saying.

"Either it's happening or it isn't" grossly oversimplifies the case. Man-made global warming is happening, but the possible outcomes over the next 50-100 years range all over the place, even according to the experts seen as agreeing with Gore. And while there might be a consensus on the broad question, nobody except for politicians argue that the science is done. There is still plenty of room for, and need for, discussion and debate. You don't persuade people by trying to silence the side you're not on.

Brooks' piece was insightful in capturing why Gore is this way. It's not that he's by nature an oppressive or controlling person. It's that he thinks that once something makes sense to him logically, there is no further need for discussion -- by anyone. I think he's convinced that the "wisdom of the crowds" enabled by the Internet will inevitably lead everyone in the world to agree with him. That's a bit much for anyone to claim, whether you agree with them or not.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

Ann wrote:

I assume he's referring to modern research into the brain. See for example, "Descartes' Error," one of my favorite books...


Damasio's argument in "Descartes' Error" relies on his somatic markers hypothesis. At the moment, there is very little good evidence to support Damasio's theory. Consequently, to the extent you were referring to Damasio's work when you wrote

although this is indeed a longstanding philosophical inquiry, modern brain science has contributed importantly to it

I think you overstate the contribution of neuroscience.

An excellent review of somatic marker studies can be found here for anyone interested. (This includes the recent serious criticisms of the Iowa Gambling Task experiment conclusions on which most of Damasio's analysis relies.)

I haven't read Gore's book, so I can't comment on it, but I note that Ann's mention of the book has given at least one of the usual suspects another opportunity to giggle about Al Gore's weight.

Thorley Winston said...

"Either it's happening or it isn't" grossly oversimplifies the case. Man-made global warming is happening,

I think you may have done a little oversimplification there yourself. There isn’t that much debate over whether the Earth’s temperature has increased in the last century (that’s one area where the science can probably IMO legitimately be said to be “settled”). What isn’t settled is what are the causes (note the plural) of that increase and how much each cause is responsible for that warming. We’ve learned a whole lot of things (including that there are a lot of questions that weren’t asked at the time when it became chic for some “scientists” to sign petitions saying that they knew what was causing global climate change) about stuff like variations in the amount of energy coming from the Sun, previous cycles of warming and cooling, the interaction of different gases in the atmosphere, etc.

In order to enact any sort of rational policies, decision-makers need to have an understanding of the costs and benefits of the proposed policies (including alternatives). The problem for the proponents of the AGW theory is that we don’t know how much (if any) of the “problem” is really caused by human activity rather than natural. What we could likely wind up with is enacting rather draconian policy changes that mitigate at most a fraction of the “problem.”

Or as you pointed out, global warming could turn out to have rather minor long-term effects (and if this is indeed a long-term “problem,” it might make sense to mitigate over a longer-time period) or even be a net positive.

Oligonicella said...

Blake --

"By the way, my, uh, "upper brain" humbly submits that if a decision to take action A results in one's death, it's not a rational decision..."

reason
–v.i.
14. to form conclusions, judgments, or inferences from facts or premises.

Your reasoning abilities are therefore better than his, in my opinion.

I did not say he made a good decision, just that he made one without fear involved (apparently).

Had fear entered, his decision very well might have been different.

This was one man. Nothing I said was to be taken generally.

Luckyoldson said...

For those of you who don't believe in global warming...this is right up your alley:

From the Creation Museum:

Some exhibits show dinosaurs aboard Noah's Ark and assert that all animals were vegetarians until Adam committed the first sin in the Garden of Eden.

Luckyoldson said...

john stodder,
why not list all of the "scientists" that DON'T believe in global warming?

*PARIS, Feb. 2 — In a grim and powerful assessment of the future of the planet, the leading international network of climate scientists has concluded for the first time that global warming is “unequivocal” and that human activity is the main driver, “very likely” causing most of the rise in temperatures since 1950.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/03/science/earth/03climate.html?ex=1180584000&en=560873543d69b5a6&ei=5070

P.S.oh, and how was the creation museum? good crowd? get to pet a dinosaur?

dave in boca said...

Al is condescending because he is a tenured inside-the-Beltway tapeworm. He is unaccountable like his swamp-mates out there on the fever fringes....Edwards, Hilarious, and Dennis the Minus.

John Stodder said...

LOS,

You think you're arguing with me, but you're not. I think the UN report is a good representation of the current scientific consensus. But the report also doesn't say all of what you think it says. As has been widely reported, the UN's mean predicted sea-level rise falls far short of an apocalypse. We have plenty of time to turn it around, and with all the push toward alternative fuels, I sense that we will get a lot more efficient soon. I don't "disagree" with Gore, but I'm not sure yet whether things are as urgent as he appears to suggest. And I certainly find it comical that you would put me with Creation scientists, but for guys like you it's obviously a hell of lot easier to caricature people you disagree with than actually to debate them.

Luckyoldson said...

dave in boca,
oh, okay, dave.

thanks for the right wing update.

thank god for g.w., huh?

Luckyoldson said...

stoddard,
no, i'm not "arguing" with you, but i think your dismissal of gore's warnings are short-sighted...and would love to hear what you base your opinion on.

blake said...

I did not say he made a good decision, just that he made one without fear involved (apparently).

Apparently. But then again, perhaps his actions were inhibited with fear. (I've seen people do that: Respond to a horrifying shock by, well, not resopnding to it.)

The facts were evident regardless of emotion. And we don't know what his emotional state was. One could say he didn't act on fear but that's far less defensible than saying he didn't act on the facts.

Or perhaps I've lost this thread somewhere along the line. Heh.

Fen said...

So if we get Al Gore's Vulcan Utopia, with universal health care for free and flying cars that run on vegetable oil, then Captain Kirk will fight Al Gore to the death for the hand of Tipper?

Nah, he'll look the other way as Kirk gropes her breast. Thats been his reaction in the past.

Frank_IBC said...

Detach the Id from the Ego and Superego?

Or lobotomize the limbic system?

Frank_IBC said...

There have been studies showing that people with damage to the emotional centers of the brain have significant impairment in their ability to make good decisions.

They may act with total lack of regard to consequences to others out of lack of empathy, or in lack of fear may engage in actions that are very destructive to themselves.

Robert Cook said...

From John Stoddard: "There were thousands of enlightened, well-informed people with influence over the government, the military and the media who came to the conclusion that the invasion was necessary."

Who were these people? It was always obvious that the warmongers had no case. I never heard one convincing, substantiated argument from them, but only vague rhetoric, buzzwords, spin and fear-mongering. Nothing that's come to light since has made their original case any more compelling. Their entire case for war was nothing if not an assault on reason, which led to the war crime of our invasion of Iraq.

It was also obvious that Li'l Butch and Big DICK were determined to have their war, regardless of the facts on the ground; anyone who could not see that and who did not, therefore, subject their every "Hussein will kill us" utterance to skeptical scrutiny must be assumed to have not been paying attention, at the very least. (In fact, any time ANY government begins fomenting for ANY war, we must be absolutely skeptical until they can produce for our--we, the people--examination the relevant evidence to support their case. The rational position on war must always be ANTI-war, until reasonable doubt can be overcome.)

Just as we must blend reason with emotion to make good decisions--which I doubt Gore would deny--we must also subject our emotions to logical scrutiny to mitigate against our making bad decisions. It works both ways! How about that!

Frank_IBC said...

The really funny aspect to this is that Al Gore is as calm and unemotional as Ayn Rand was.